It was a short ride but I was definitely on the Tom Barrett bandwagon for awhile. Hard to believe but I really was. After years of being the most invisible and vanilla mayor in the history of the City of Milwaukee, Mayor Barrett vaulted into the spotlight in the last year like few politicians can, and I was on board big time.
First, he publically opposed the sick day mandate. This job-killing proposal was obvious but few politicians dared to denounce the proposal for fear of the usual backlash from the left and more specifically the 9 to 5 Organization.
Then he literally threw himself into a domestic squabble on his way to the Wisconsin State Fair and had the, you know what beat out of him. I was and still am impressed. It took a lot of guts. After all, this is a politician, whose soft hands are usually used for greasing the palms of powerful interest groups, not a rugged construction guy. Up until that point, the most muscle this mayor showed was staring down city union workers to make concessions such as agreeing to a pay “freeze” (along with a no layoff guarantee) at a time when over 50,000 jobs have been lost in Milwaukee in the past year, according to the Department of Workforce Development.
Then he stands up to the Milwaukee School Board and announces he is seeking a state law to make the mayor in charge of MPS. This self-serving group of elected officials, who hold hands with the teachers union at every vote and will sacrifice everything including the students to stay in power, were shocked. Who did he think he was, former Mayor John Norquist, who fought the bureaucracy and championed school choice?
I was on board with you, Mr. Mayor. I want the deplorable test scores and unacceptable dropout rates of MPS to improve. I want those in charge to have names and faces so they can be accountable when we go to the polls. The mayor should be in charge of the Milwaukee Public Schools, and should face the music if it continues to fail.
But feeling your moxie, you had to go for the brass ring and run for governor. So I must officially jump off the wagon after just a few short months. Now you will have to defend your record of raising taxes and fees to solve the city budget deficit, instead of making meaningful spending cuts.
You will have to explain to the hard-working, as well as those willing and unable to be hard-working, why you were one of the first local politicians to endorse our current president. You are going to have to ask them with a straight face how “hope and change” is working out for them. And you are going to have to defend why you made deal after deal with city workers at the expense of city residents.
It was fun while it lasted, but like any ride it had to come to an end.
Tom Popalisky of Shorewood is president of Acoustech Supply Inc.